Week 4 Preview
by Mike Mitchell
September 18, 2007
There are 60 games on this week's agenda, involving 108 teams from the bowl subdivision (1-A). Twelve teams play schools from the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision, formerly known as 1-AA). Eleven teams are idle, including one unbeaten team - Rutgers.
Sixty games fill the weekend agenda. Eleven teams are idle and twelve schools face opponents from the football championship subdivision (FCS, formerly 1-AA).
Notre Dame could use the week off, but doesn't get that luxury.
It's difficult to believe that we are getting ready for the fourth week of the college football season and Notre Dame has yet to score an offensive touchdown, let alone win a single ballgame.
The Fighting Irish have already lost their opening day quarterback as sophomore Demetrius Jones transferred to Northern Illinois last week after losing the starting job to true freshman Jimmy Clausen. Now, they face an undefeated Michigan State team and the distinct possibility of starting a season 0-4 for the first time in history. Notre Dame is on a five-game losing streak, something it hasn't endured since the bridge between the 1985 and 1986 seasons. The Irish haven't lost six straight since 1960 when they wound up suffering through an eight-game skid en route to a 2-8 season under Joe Kuharich, who won just 42.5 percent of his games in four seasons (1959-1962) at the school. (For trivia buffs with too much time on their hands, Kent Baer had a winning percentage of .000, but he only coached one game - the 2004 Insight Bowl when he replaced the fired Ty Willingham).
The Spartans, 3-0 under first-year head coach Mark Dantonio, are winning - just not impressively. The last two contests were won by meager margins, 28-17 and 17-13, and this is the Spartans' first venture outside the friendly confines of East Lansing. Maybe that explains why the computer still picks Notre Dame to win this game, although the predicted margin has been cut in half since preseason (18.58 to 9.14).
Elsewhere, conference play heats up. After just 10 games last week involved teams from the same league, this week sees 28 conference match-ups. Some of the notable teams playing league-openers include USC (vs. Washington State), Florida (at Mississippi), California (vs. Arizona), Oregon (at Stanford), Ohio State (vs. Northwestern), Wisconsin (vs. Iowa), Purdue (at Minnesota), and Kentucky (at Arkansas).
Texas A&M at Miami (Fla.) (Thursday) - Miami didn't fare well in its last game against a Big 12 opponent, losing 51-13 two weeks ago at Oklahoma. This is only the fourth time that Miami has played a school from the Big 12 since that conference formed in 1996. All four games have been played since 2001 and all four have been against different schools - Nebraska (2001 Rose Bowl), Colorado (2005), Oklahoma (2007) and Texas A&M (2007). Miami is 2-1 against the Big 12 (1-0 at home, 1-0 at neutral sites, 0-1 on the road). The computer favors the Aggies by a slim margin of 1.23 points.
Air Force at BYU - The Falcons are an early surprise at 3-0 as they enter their annual rivalry game with BYU. The Cougars have dropped back-to-back road games at UCLA and Tulsa. Air Force is already 2-0 in the Mountain West. This is BYU's conference opener. The Falcons have dropped three straight to the Cougars by an average of 19 points. BYU ranks 4th in passing offense, Air Force ranks 10th in rushing offense. BYU is 21st in rushing defense, and Air Force ranks 54th against the pass. The Cougars are a hefty 18.89-point computer favorite.
Georgia at Alabama - A major SEC affair as the Tide looks to go 3-0 in conference while the Bulldogs need to avoid an 0-2 conference start. The two schools haven't met since 2003 and Alabama hasn't beaten Georgia since 1995. The computer picks Georgia by less than a point (-0.64).
Oregon State at Arizona State - Both schools are 3-0 and playing their conference opener with the Beavers getting a slim 0.75-point edge from the computer.
Kentucky at Arkansas - Last Saturday's win over Louisville gave Kentucky confidence for its SEC opener, while Arkansas' disappointing loss at Alabama put the Hogs in jeopardy of opening their conference slate with consecutive losses. Going back to the end of last season, the Razorbacks have dropped three consecutive SEC games. The Wildcats are just 2-10 in their last 12 SEC road games and the wins have come at Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.
South Carolina at LSU - We can all hope for an interesting game, but the Gamecocks will have to play flawlessly to upset the Tigers in Baton Rouge. LSU is 14-2-1 all-time against South Carolina. The only Gamecock victories came in 1994 and 1930.
Somewhat Surprising Computer Picks
Northern Illinois (-9.30) at Idaho - Former Washington State defensive coordinator Robb Akey has the Vandals playing decent defense while the Huskies have struggled to an 0-3 start. Northern Illinois is coming off back-to-back home losses to perennial MAC bottom-feeder Eastern Michigan, and FCS member Southern Illinois. This game offers Idaho a great opportunity to end its seven-game losing streak to FBS schools.
Pitt (-9.98) vs. UConn - The 3-0 Huskies visit the 2-1 Panthers in the Big East opener for both schools. The loser will have a difficult time making up ground in a Big East race that figures to be an all-out war between West Virginia, Louisville, Rutgers, South Florida and Cincinnati. The Panthers are a surprisingly large computer favorite.
UCLA (-16.50) vs. Washington - UCLA is coming off of a disastrous 44-6 loss at Utah. Washington looks to rebound from its 33-14 loss last week to Ohio State.
Oklahoma at Tulsa (Friday) - Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford vs. Tulsa QB Paul Smith, who threw for 454 yards and 5 TD's in last week's 55-47 shootout victory at home over BYU. Of course, the Golden Hurricane also gave up 526 yards and 4 TD's to Cougar QB Max Hall. Oklahoma is ranked 3rd in total offense, and Tulsa is ranked 4th. But the Sooners are 2nd in total defense and Tulsa is 108th.
Colorado State at Houston - An intersectional matchup between the Mountain West and CUSA. The Rams are looking for their first victory (0-2) while the Cougars are 1-1.
Georgia Tech at Virginia - The Yellow Jackets blew a golden opportunity to take command of the Coastal Division race when they lost at home to Boston College last Saturday. Now, the Ramblin' Wreck goes to Charlottesville with an 0-1 ACC mark to battle the leader of its division, UVa (2-1, 2-0). A win for Al Groh's Cavaliers would get the Virginia faithful off his back for a day or two.
Penn State at Michigan - The Wolverines have taken eight straight from the Nittany Lions and, if Michigan is going to revive its season, their dominance of Penn State must continue this week. Last week's 38-0 win over Notre Dame allowed the Wolverines to avoid their first 0-3 start since 1937. The Nittany Lions are looking to go 4-0 for the just the second time since 1999. Penn State has won just two of its last five conference road openers.
You have to give props to the computer for picking FAU's upset of Minnesota. Is this what the Golden Gophers thought they would get when they fired Glen Mason? Minnesota is off to a 1-2 start with its only win coming in overtime against Miami (Ohio). Granted, the Gophers have outscored their opponents 111-109, but they've allowed 36 points per game to Bowling Green, Miami (Ohio) and FAU.
The third week of college football action saw the number of unbeaten teams shrink from 44 to 31, which is two more than the 29 left at this point last season.
As the list narrows later in the year, we'll help you keep tabs with those teams that are still on track for an undefeated season. Last year, Boise State (13-0) was the only team that accomplished the task and they are already out of the picture this season.
17 schools still have a goose egg in the win column after 15 schools picked up their first win last week.
10 others have yet to beat a team from the FCS division: Arizona, Army, Fresno State, Idaho, Louisiana Tech, Memphis, Nevada, North Carolina, North Carolina State, and UAB.
1-A vs. 1-AA
Note that 1-A is now classified by the NCAA as the "Football Bowl Subdivision", or "FBS", for short. 1-AA has been re-classified as the "Football Championship Subdivision", or "FCS", for short.
12 FBS teams play FCS schools this week bringing the total number to 61 for the year. Among them:
Most ripe for an upset could be Middle Tennessee which entertains Western Kentucky on Thursday night. The Hilltoppers are currently in transition to become the ninth Sun Belt Conference football playing institution and the 120th Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A) member. The Hilltoppers will play six SBC teams in 2008 and will be eligible for the conference title and a bowl berth in 2009.
Others to look out for:
Central Michigan hosts a formidable North Dakota State team, currently ranked 5th in the championship subdivision poll
Tulane entertains Southeastern Louisiana which has already played, and lost, to Kansas (62-0) and New Mexico State (35-14).
Boise State has won 38 consecutive regular season home games. The Broncos also have a perfect home record against their fellow WAC conference members (24-0). Boise State is idle this week.
Wisconsin owns the nation's current longest winning streak at 12 games. The Badgers host Iowa.
Florida has won 10 straight. The Gators visit Ole Miss.
LSU has also won 10 straight games. The Tigers host South Carolina.
USC has won a nation's-best 34 consecutive home games. The Trojans host Washington State.
FIU owns the nation's longest current losing streak at 15 games. The Golden Panthers visit Kansas.
Colorado State has lost 9 straight. The Rams visit Houston.
Utah State has also lost 9 straight. The Aggies host San Jose State.
N.C. State ended its 9-game losing streak with a 38-17 victory over FCS member Wofford. The Wolfpack still have a 9-game losing streak to FBS schools. N.C. State hosts Clemson.
The 2006 season featured 11 new head coaches. Five led their team to a bowl game.
This year, there are 24 coaching changes for the highest number since 2001 when there were 25. We'll track their progress throughout the season.
Here is how they stand, in order, by won-loss record.
Air Force, 3-0 under Troy Calhoun, visits BYU.
Alabama, 3-0 under Nick Saban, hosts Georgia.
Arizona State, 3-0 under Dennis Erickson, hosts Oregon State.
Boston College, 3-0 under Jeff Jagodzinski, hosts Army.
Cincinnati, 3-0 under Brian Kelly, hosts Marshall.
Indiana, 3-0 under Bill Lynch, hosts Illinois.
Michigan State, 3-0 under Mark Dantonio, visits Notre Dame.
Tulsa, 2-0 under Todd Graham, host Oklahoma.
Louisville, 2-1 under Steve Kragthorpe, host Syracuse.
Miami (Fla.), 2-1 under Randy Shannon, host Texas A&M.
Stanford, 1-1 under Jim Harbaugh, hosts Oregon.
Army, 1-2 under Stan Brock, visits Boston College.
Central Michigan, 1-2 under Butch Jones, hosts FCS member North Dakota St.
Idaho, 1-2 under Robb Akey, hosts Northern Illinois.
Iowa State, 1-2 under Gene Chizik, visits Toledo.
Louisiana Tech, 1-2 under Derek Dooley, is idle.
Minnesota, 1-2 under Tim Brewster, hosts Purdue.
North Carolina, 1-2 under Butch Davis, visits South Florida.
N.C. State, 1-2 under Tom O'Brien, hosts Clemson.
UAB, 1-2 under Neil Callaway, is idle.
North Texas, 0-2 under Todd Dodge, hosts FAU.
Tulane, 0-2 under Bob Toledo, hosts FCS member Southeastern Louisiana.
FIU, 0-3 under Mario Cristobal, visits Kansas.
Rice, 0-3 under David Bailiff, visits Texas.